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Archive for Monday, March 5, 2012

Statehouse Live: Opposing sides of rail-trails square off before committee

March 5, 2012

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— Hikers and farmers squared off on Monday before a House committee over the sometimes contentious rails-to-trails issue.

Marty Nordhus, a farmer from Marshall County, said a decision by the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals could force him to pay property taxes on abandoned railway right-of-way that went through his property but had become a public trail.

Nordhus said he would then would have to sue the trail organization, which has been deeded the land, in order to get compensated for his tax bill.

"This committee is simply being asked to right an injustice," he told the House Transportation Committee.

Backing up Nordhus in support of House Bill 2735 were numerous agricultural organizations. The bill would require that land that has been "rail-banked" would be appraised and the taxes assessed on the recreational trail organization that took over the corridor.

Leslie Kaufman, with the Kansas Cooperative Council and Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association, said it wasn't fair to tax farmers for the rail trails.

"To saddle us with the tax burden for a corridor that you have no control over or receive economic benefit from really adds insult upon injury," Kaufman said.

But rail-trail supporters said the agriculture groups were getting fired up over nothing. No one is paying taxes on rail trails, they said.

They agreed that landowners shouldn't have to pay taxes on the trails, and they argued the case involving Nordhus hadn't been finalized yet.

"We don't want the adjacent landowner to pay taxes," said Scott Allen, vice president of the Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy. "We don't want to pay taxes, and that is what the status quo is right now."

Currently, he said, counties exempt the recreational trail right-of-way from property taxes or value the land at 0.The group provided an amendment to the bill that would ensure that would continue.

Doug Walker, president of the Kanza Rail-Trail Conservancy, said non-profit trail organizations shouldn't have to pay taxes on the trails because they were providing free recreational facilities for the public. KanBikeWalk also testified in favor the amendment provided by Kanza Rail-Trails Conservancy.

The committee took no action on the bill.

Comments

Hooligan_016 2 years, 12 months ago

Soooo ... sounds like the county landowners are getting worked up over nothing?

Ron Holzwarth 2 years, 12 months ago

It's a diversionary technique. By focusing attention on something like this, they can ignore the inflation of our currency, the lack of jobs, the wars that are killing people, cutting Social Security benefits, etc, etc, all of which are much more serious problems.

JayhawkFan1985 2 years, 12 months ago

The right wing of the GOP is claiming the sky is falling again...breaking news..."it aint fallin'".

grimpeur 2 years, 12 months ago

Prairie Spirit is a state park. It charges use fees like any other park. The rail-trail group charges no fees.

So the landowners are getting worked up about nothing except, apparently, that the NFPs are not being charged taxes--taxes which might discourage the development of the rail corridors, which might be the goal of these fake protests.

Boston_Corbett 2 years, 12 months ago

....oh, the world of faked indignation. Our national candidates have taught us well.

Lawrence Morgan 2 years, 12 months ago

In my opinion, the Kanza Rail-Trail Conservancy is a very important part of the future. As much as possible, these trails should be free.

The web site is a beginning, but it should be much better, and be coordinated with other web sites on similar projects throughout Kansas.

All these web sites and attractions, including historical ones, should be brought together in one location. The Journal-World is ideal for doing this. But it should be set up in such a way that all papers throughout Kansas could include it on their web sites if they so wish.

Students at universities and community colleges could build the sites to their full potential, as part of their Internet classes and clubs.

And the Journal-World, as well as other reporters throughout the state, could do a series on these locations throughout the year.

A really good photographer, and the Journal-World has several, as well as naturalists, could distinguish plant and animal life differences with photographs and text throughout the year, making it a real year-round experience.

organicman 2 years, 12 months ago

There has been an active effort to establish a bike trail in Marion and McPherson Counties for over 15 years. The trail development funding from the Federal Transportation Bill Non-motorized Trails Fund requires support from a local government unit. A very vocal minority of farmers and adjacent landowners supported by the Kansas Farm Bureau have been able to intimidate elected officials to not support trail development. The funding is derived from federal gasoline taxes paid by everyone that buys motor fuels. After residing in Kansas for 50 years I sold my farm and moved my business to Madison, Wisconsin. Madison has over 100 miles of bike trails and many more miles of shared streets with marked bike lanes. The results of this development is thousands of bicyle riders year round, a stated goal of 20% of commuting by bicycle by 2020 (currently 8% commute by bike), and a very robust bicycle related business community. The increased use of trails results in less congested streets and a more fit and healthy population.

The State of Wisconsin has hundreds of miles of long trails throughout the scenic portions of the state. Small rural communities along these trails have benefited from the bikers that use the trails and stop for meals, supplies and use numerous bed and breakfast establishments. It is a shame that a beautiful state like Kansas is held hostage by a narrow special interest group that is blocking a winning economic and healthy development like bicycle trails.

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